Purpose is more than a statement: How brands need to act in 2018.

For so long now, advertising agencies’ solution to selling brands has been to create a one sided communication with a heavy media spend behind it and expect that a customer will buy into the brand. But according to the results of the Havas’s 2017 meaningful brand report, over half of the world’s brands aren’t trusted and customers claim they wouldn't care if 74% of their brands disappeared completely. Scary right?

But don't panic just yet. Our evaluation is, you need to lead with purpose. Yes, I’m sure it’s not the first time you’ve heard that buzzword being throw about but the truth is to stay relevant and trusted in today’s world brands need to start walking the walk as well as talking the talk. 

Brands need to find a way to live and breathe their values and integrate that into their both internal culture and through their customer journey. Every touch point you have with your audience should be an opportunity to communicate why your existence matters and enable them to actively participate with your brand. Brands that fail to do so run the risk of falling behind or worse still burning out. 


The Cultural Shift

Brands are failing to emotionally engage: The statistics from the Havas report highlight just how disposable brands are becoming and with the combination of businesses not having a clear mission or fulfilling their promises there’s no surprise we’re seeing such alarming results. In the Drum’s brand engagement research last year they found that 78% of people feel brands never emotionally connect with them. It appears to rush to create quantity over quality content, has led to brands failing to focus on their true values which has consequently led to failure to connect. And with Facebook and Google now changing their algorithms to favour “valuable content” there has never been a more important a time to communicate why your brand is irreplaceable.

We’re living through a movement era: Whether it was down to Trump, leaving the EU or the rise in sexual harassment complaints, the consumer mindset has never been so passionate about change. In fact, Fast Company released research that showed for 61% of millennials, it’s their goal to make change in the world. Change of course doesn’t have to be socially or politically driven, brands that provide an opportunity for customers to participate in something bigger than themselves will be the brands that form long standing communities.


It’s not just external purpose, it’s internal too: It doesn't stop with customers, employment expectations continue to show that your staff want more than money, they want a purpose. According to Kin&Co’s latest report How to avoid fucking up purpose their research showed that over two-thirds of workers said having a purpose that was properly embedded into their culture would have a positive impact on their work; including being more productive, more efficient and more likely to contribute to the company culture. And unsurprisingly 72% said they’d be more likely to stay at their company if they were more emotionally connected to their work. So not only is there a want for businesses to reflect the values of their staff, but there are results to show it does actually improve work place productivity.  As Simon Sinek states, businesses who live and breathe their vision will be the ones that don't just give employees something to work on but something to work towards


The early adopters

It’s started with 'Think Different….'

Don’t worry, I’m not going to create a case study article about the success of Apple because lets face it you’d have to be hidden under a rock to have missed that empire evolve. But the one thing we will highlight is there has never been a minute of doubt of what they stand for. Their consistent reinforcement of 'Think Different' has always been apparent in everything they do, making it both unavoidable and a definitive staple of Apple’s brand. From their emotive TV communications right through to their in-store Apple geeks, their beliefs have remained true throughout their evolution and is a case study to purpose led brand success.

Brands that we see echoing this are Dove with their Real Beauty mission, AirBnB’s Belong Everywhere and newer brands like Toms and Karma Cola who integrate their purpose into all areas of the business. Take the Toms 'One for One' movement, their mission to help people in need didn't just depend on customer purchasing and barefoot selfies, it was embedded in their internal culture too. As part of their Tomorrows Project program, every month employees are invited to submit ideas for a charitable project that inspires them. The company then votes and the person with the winning idea receives $10,000 and two days off work to make it happen. Pretty amazing right? The program encapsulates both what the brand stands for and what they are working towards.

And it’s not just B2C brands that have establishing discovered their purpose leads business success, B2B brands like E&Y have put a strong focus on “building a better working world” by providing industry leading research, thought leadership events and tailored training to improve workplace performances. Whilst instant messaging software Slack is a testament that when you define your brand as an enabler to bringing a workforce together, you can turn a tool that has been available for years and that sits in a heavily saturated market into a multi-billion pound company and an everyday essential to all industries. 

All examples have very different agendas but their passion for achieving their vision is consistent and more importantly accessible. Creating a strong product is key to all of these brands, but the difference in components these days, is providing an opportunity for people to take part in the brand passed purchase. The ability to identify and tap into the values and beliefs of an unformed movement is where brands will see the biggest opportunities in the future. 


Late bloomers

Even legacy brands with years of heritage need to find a way to stay relevant in today’s world. Take Hellmanns for example, despite being a market leader and having 100 years under their belt, their concern of being considered as the fatty condiment in the cupboard is what drove them to rediscover their purpose. Recognising their magic formula was real, simple ingredients they begun their “Real Food” movement - Hellmann’s commitment to helping Canadians discover the pleasure that comes from eating real food with simple ingredients. To do this, they created an Urban Gardens program to give Canadians a place to grow their own real food, developed the Real Food Grants program that helped fund over 40 real food initiatives across the country and used influencers to foster Hellmann’s brand advocacy inside the real food conversation. Through a mixture of education and interactive experiences the brand continues to champion real food initiatives across the country and change a longstanding perception of the brand. 

Proof it works

Does it work I hear you ask? Of course it does. According to Unilever, purpose driven brands are the driving force behind it’s success, reporting that its Sustainable Living brands grew over 50% faster than the rest of the business. And when Hellmann’s reviewed the success of its purpose-driven efforts, in addition to shifting consumer perception around mayonnaise, they saw a substantial and direct impact on sales of Hellmann’s in Canada. 

With research confirming that meaningful brands are outperforming the stock market by 206% over a ten-year period, it’s no surprise we’re seeing industry leaders like McVities and Cadbury reassessing their current positioning for a more purpose led perspective to re-engage with its audience in new times.

The time is now for brands to find what they truly stand for and focus more on how they can involve the customer along the way. 


What’s next? 

The most important thing to remember is purpose is more than a statement. It’s something you genuinely believe in, identify with and action upon. 

So what do you need to do next? First things first, you go back to the drawing board and remind yourself, why you started. When you’ve identified this internally, you need to ensure that your purpose is going to resonate with your new or existing customers, there’s nothing worse than getting it terribly wrong (cue that Pepsi ad). Then, and arguably the most important part to the process you need plan the best way to communicate your vision to be relevant and authentic. 

And don’t just take our word for it we’re hosting our “Build a Brand Movement” event on the 7th of March at Camden Work.Life where we will be hearing first hand from Bacardi Global Brand Director Zeenah Vilcassim, Virgin Money Creative Director Tim Arthur and Founder of MyFreda Affi Parvizi-Wayne who are building brands with purpose. Book your free ticket here.


Stefanie Sword Williams, Senior Content Producer at Mattr.Media.